Utah Man’ fight song is off-pitch for some fans

Students, faculty, alumni and media have labeled the fight song “Utah Man” as sexist, old fashioned, difficult, offensive and dated.

The song has been a sensitive issue- particularly with women-for some time, said John Ashton, executive director of alumni relations, because of lyrics such as “Utah man, sir,” “Our coeds are the fairest,” “No other gang of college men” and “a Utah man am I.”

As a result, John Poelman, last year’s Associated Students of the University of Utah vice president, started exploring ways to change the song’s lyrics-and possibly completely rewrite it-during Spring Semester, but ran out of time when his term ended in April.

“The fact that to sing it you have to claim yourself as a man regardless of your sex makes me, and I think some others, feel uncomfortable participating in it,” Poelman said. “I know a number of people who chose to sing it replacing ‘man’ with ‘fan,’ along with a few other word adjustments, so that they feel it represents them more.”

The decision is now in the hands of the new student body presidency, and they have said they intend to gain feedback from students and alumni before taking action.

“I don’t see anything happening this summer,” said Toby Collett, vice president of ASUU. “We will explore student opinion and go from there.”

He said if it is something students want, he’ll push to make the necessary changes to the song.

Ashton said that many alumni have been against changing the lyrics because of tradition, and that if a change were made, it would have to be initiated by a movement by the student body.

The last attempt to change the lyrics was in 1984 when a vice president suggested changing the lyrics “Who am I, sir? A Utah man am I” to “Who am I, friend? A Utah Fan am I.” The attempt was stopped after another vice president vetoed the decision, Ashton said.

The song was originally written as a beer-drinking song in 1904 by the football coach Harvey Holmes and his team.

Lyrics have since been modified for political fairness, Ashton said. The words “Our coeds are the fairest and each one’s a shining star,” used to read, “We drink our stein of lager and smoke our big cigars.”

“It began as a song that the football players would sing. But now that we use it for all sports and it’s sung by more than just the team itself, it seems right to alter the lyrics to be more inclusive,” Poelman said.

Rick Reilly, columnist for Sports Illustrated, wrote in August 2000 that he hated “Utah Man” because of the use of old fashion lyrics “gang” and “jolliest.”

Norm Maves, Jr. of the Daily Oregonian called “Utah Man” the second-worst college fight song, saying, “It’s stupid, stolen and sexist. Any Canadian school kid knows the real words to ‘Old Solomon Levi.'”

In 2000, a group of alumni asked Robert Cundick, a Mormon Tabernacle organist and alumni of the U, to write a completely new song titled “The Utah Fight Song.”

“‘Utah Man’ is not a true fight song, and the lyrics are extremely dated,” Cundick said. “(‘The Utah Fight Song’) is written in the pattern of traditional fight songs and focuses on the action.”

The song debuted at the Utah versus Colorado State football game in 2000, and is used occasionally by the pep band at sporting events, said Eric Peterson, assistant professor in the music department.

Cundick suggested that the band use the fight song and let the familiarity with the tune and lyrics grow gradually.

“I’m not trying to push the song, but I do feel it has a need,” Cundick said.